Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 585

Claude had decided to establish a new framework for the region's department of intelligence. The region only had one department, but the sheer number of operations and matters they had to attend to was enormous. For instance, they had to deal with counter-intelligence within the region itself, infiltrating other nations for military intel, and understanding the situation on the battlefield. As the scope of their operations was far too wide, they would often be swamped and be unable to effectively tackle each problem. An example of that would be their complete unawareness of the Aueran navy's recent shenanigans.

Claude was going to set up two additional agencies. One would be simply called the Information Bureau, which centred around gathering intel concerning external affairs covering military and economic matters to prepare the region for all eventualities. The other, called the Security Bureau, focused on counterintelligence and keeping the region's technological advancements secret, lest they leak to a foreign party. They would be aware of every single occurrence within the region.

As for the original intelligence department of the military administration, they would be split into two parts, namely Land Intelligence and Naval Intelligence. Land Intelligence was responsible for collecting information on battlefields. One example of their investigation targets would be the western coast, where Operation Wildfire was being carried out. Naval Intelligence, on the other hand, would deal with foreign naval forces and pirate factions.

But just as he was about to finish the basic framework of those agencies, he suddenly realised that the military administration would stand to lose a lot through funding the formation of these agencies' formation. Not to mention, the Security Bureau and Information Bureau, in particular, would be responsible for the region's safety on a broader level, so they should be funded by the region's council in the first place.

The military administration only had to have Land Intelligence and Naval Intelligence directly under their jurisdiction. While Claude could slip the formation of the other two agencies into the council's agenda without asking for explicit approval, given his stature, but that would be a little too forceful to be tasteful, potentially ruffling a few feathers he would prefer not to. Upon more consideration, he believed it best for him to discuss the matter with the council first and afford them some due respect.

So, Claude went looking for Bolonik, the council speaker. The council chairman Bernard had stayed behind in Northbay to deal with contact with the royal capital, so Bolonik was the main person in charge of the region itself. He took over as the acting chairman and ensured the smooth running of the council. In essence, the region was using a dual-track system and had two separate administrations for civil and military affairs.

The region's council was nominally the institution with the most power in the region, with most matters having to receive their approval beforehand. However, they were actually no more than glorified document stampers. The ones with true power were the twelve members of the executive committee of the council who directed all local policy and administration.

Even then, the executive committee had to get Claude's approval before going forward with any motion. In a sense, Claude was the most powerful person in the region. The ministers in the royal capital knew well that if they wanted to deal with the region, they would have to go through Claude first.

Claude found Bolonik with a crestfallen look. He didn't seem particularly happy to see Claude and took out a large stack of documents for him to see.

"What are these?" Claude asked.

Bolonik explained the source of his worries. Originally, the local administration of the region was modelled after that of the kingdom. Most local official candidates were selected through recommendations by people of repute. After the candidates were approved by the region's council, they could take up their posts. The other method, evaluations, didn't need council approval. The local administrative offices could simply test the applicants to see if they were qualified for the job.

For instance, Claude's father, Morssen, became a public official in Whitestag through the evaluation process. Whitestag had lacked qualified administrators. Morssen had used his good academic grades in middle school to get an official position. Through decades of hard work, he managed to become a member of the town administration as the chief administrator despite not having the backing of his family or any significant figure and got his dignitarian status.

The documents were collections of corruption reports. Claude asked, "Since there's proof, punish them per regulations. What's the point of getting all troubled up over this?"

Bolonik sighed. Claude only came to understand his difficult position after he let out a long rant. Originally, the local officials were sent from the mainland to serve the viceroys and high-commissioners. In time, the war theatre worked with local folk of repute to rid the administration of corrupt officials, eventually forming the region's council and military administration.

Back then, the colonies were all converted into states and local administrative offices were founded. After the removal of the corrupt colonial officials, the reputable locals recommended others into positions of authority. While there was an element of nepotism behind it, the officials performed their duties fine, so it was a good side benefit.

But as the region's economy developed and the number of immigrants increased more and more positions in the local offices became vacant. Many sharp-witted folk had their eyes on those positions. The mixture of those who were appointed because of their merit and those who weren't eventually caused the efficiency of the local administrations to decrease. Eventually, the phenomenon of bureaucratic red tape began to fester.

Throughout the years, the citizens of the region began to get used to it. Normal patrol troops would habitually simply grab a few apples from fruit stalls without paying, leaving the sellers with no option but to complain about their bad luck. While those officials were quite smart and wouldn't dare offend people in high places, they wouldn't have a problem oppressing those beneath them.

Had it not been for the large swatches of immigrants, the rot in the administration might have continued to go unnoticed. With the entry of more than two million Shiksan immigrants, some bloody cases resulted during the settlement process. Some corrupt officials had intentionally withheld aid the region promised to the immigrants as a form of blackmail, which resulted in a violent conflict that rendered the whole scandal unable to be hidden from the council any longer.

It wasn't that the region didn't have non-corrupt officials, but they in small minorities. There were even more who were more than willing to skirt the rules. What enraged Bolonik even further was the fact that a few of them preyed on the citizens, even going so far as forming gangs to collect protection fee from them.

Bolonik, being from a commoner background himself and developing a strait-laced personality throughout his career in the military, hated corruption with a passion. Before he went to war college, his parents, farmers living in the countryside, would often be scammed and threatened by local officials. His experiences in his youth had developed into a phobia of sorts. Seeing corruption was sure to provoke an emotional reaction in him.

He asked Claude how different would the region be from the kingdom? The local officials collaborated with each other to oppress those they were supposed to serve and hide their antics from those higher up. In time, the populace was sure to lose confidence in the council. He wanted to conduct a huge purge, but he was also worried about stirring up too much trouble and chaos in the process.

He was troubled even more by how such a purge left a power vacuum. According to the investigations he ordered, a huge majority of officials could be wrapped up in that matter. While it was easy to round them up, who should be put in charge in their stead after? There was also the need to consider the prevention of corruption in the future.

After unloading his frustrations on Claude for more than an hour, he recalled that Claude hadn't even told him why he had come. Claude handed two documents to him concerning the formation of the Information Bureau and Security Bureau and explained their purpose. Bolonik praised these proposals and said it would have no trouble passing through the council, given that they were supposed to be under the civil administration's jurisdiction.

However, Claude wasn't going to put them directly in the council's hands. If a single council member stuck their hands into the two bureaus, then their operations would be jeopardised. He also wasn't willing to put control in the hands of the executive committee, who were already powerful enough. Their influence would stretch too far in peacetime.

Instead, he had plans to form a special intelligence committee with twelve members to head the two bureaus. Those bureaus would report to the committee and remain parallel from the regino's council while being considered subsidiary to them at the same time. However, they would receive direction from the military administration and funding from the executive committee. Of the twelve members, five would be from the military administration, four from the executive committee and three from the council.

After flipping through the corruption investigations, Claude smiled. "Actually, your subordinates are rather capable. Perhaps we can form an Investigation Bureau to tackle corruption in the region and punish officials when there's proof. They can also deal with the problem of gangs and investigate their criminal activities."

Bolonik laughed and knew what Claude was getting at. They furthered their discussion to smooth out the formation of the three intelligence bureaus. Soon, it was decided that Claude would be the head of the intelligence committee, with Bolonik being the vice head. Myjack was appointed the chief secretary and would run the committee from day to day.

The five members the military administration picked were Claude, Birkin, Myjack, Borkal and Fodres. Borkal took up the post of the head of the Information Bureau whereas Fodres became the head of the Security Bureau. As for the executive committee, Bolonik, Henderman, Bernard, Weyblon and Saljorak were picked. Bolonik would be the one to pick the head of the Investigation Bureau. The remaining three council members would also be picked by the council. All of them would have to take an oath to never leak any internal information.

As for the matter that bothered Bolonik, Claude had two suggestions. The first was to only pick officials through evaluations in the future and refuse recommendations. All candidates would have to go through a standardised test and an interview after to ensure they were fit for the position. They would also have to be scrutinised by the Investigation Bureau. Should they be discovered to have committed any crimes, they were to be immediately arrested.

Second, operations to tackle the local crime syndicates ought to be carried out and order was to be strengthened and maintained. To deal with the local officials behind the scenes, they would first be transferred to another post before their arrest. Not only would that deal a heavy blow to the corrupt officials, it wouldn't disrupt local order.

The most troubling part about those officials was how they had really complex networks of interest with the local syndicates. If they were arrested in their home ground, the region might encounter heavy resistance, which would balloon the issue unnecessarily.

Claude's idea could avoid that issue by shifting the officials from Town A to Town B, and the officials from Town B to Town C and so on. Merely displacing them was enough to cut them off from their power base without alerting them to the investigations that would be carried out in their absence. Disjointed, their efforts to resist investigation or arrest would inevitably be thwarted.

Overjoyed, Bolonik decided to go with Claude's suggestions. The evaluation metric would first be set and implemented. After that, all existing officials would be requested to take those tests to ensure their capabilities were fit for the post. Additionally, the purge would be conducted in the meantime and the officials' transfers would be part of the evaluation process, so they wouldn't be able to refuse the transfer if they wanted to keep their positions.

Once the investigations and purges were complete, tests would be carried out in the local towns to pick out members of the public with clean records to fill the posts of the corrupt officials. However, Bolonik required the military administration's cooperation to undertake this effort region-wide.

Claude believed that only after Thundercrash returned would they have enough forces to execute the purge across the nine states of the region. Before the end of the year, Bolonik's task was to form the three bureaus, which would be a great help in the purge operation.

The 15th of the 10th month of Year 606 was a memorable date in the region's history. The region's council passed the formation of the three intelligence bureaus during their seasonal summit and appointed the members of the intelligence committee. They also granted the committee three million crowns for the bureaus' formation.

From then onwards, the bureaus bared their fangs against threats internal and external, gathering information on the enemies of the region in secret. They would be the sharpest dagger and toughest shield of the autonomous region.

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